(By Matt Smethurst, The Gospel Coalition). “Books don’t change people,” John Piper observes. “Paragraphs do. Sometimes even sentences.”
A good sentence is a gift. We love finding complex truth shrink-wrapped in clear, simple, memorable form. It’s why Charles Spurgeon and C. S. Lewis are dominating a newsfeed near you. Even God likes pithy statements—at least enough to breathe out a whole book of them.
But one-liners aren’t always helpful. Sometimes, in our desire to simplify truth, we can trivialize and even obscure it. And to obscure the truth is to tell a lie.
Here are five popular Christian clichés that are not biblical, and therefore need a memorial service.
1. “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”
I appreciate the heart behind this statement. It’s true, after all, that God can do anything he pleases (Jer. 32:27), that he sometimes redirects our course (Prov. 16:9), and that he never abandons his own (Heb. 13:5).
But if God closes a door in your life, there’s no guarantee he’ll open a window. He may not open anything. He may want you to realize you have the wrong address.
Scripture is filled with examples of the Spirit closing doors, windows, and any other conceivable entrance to keep one from heading in the wrong direction or at the wrong time (e.g., Prov. 16:9; 19:21; Acts 16:6–7).
I once heard calling described as the trifecta of affinity, ability, and opportunity. Do you like it, can you do it, and is there an open door? Now there are rare times when, if the third piece isn’t in place, God may want you to break down the door. Missionary martyr Jim Elliott once said that a lot of folks are sitting around waiting for a “call” when what they need is a kick in the pants.
But what if God has something else for you entirely? What if he doesn’t want you to move to that city, or take that job, or enter that relationship—whether by door or window?
Maybe he wants you to re-evaluate in light of affinity, ability, and opportunity—your internal desires, your confirmed giftings, and your actual options.
2. “You’re never more safe than when you’re in God’s will.”
Insofar as the safety here is eternal, or means something like “in the right place,” this maxim is gloriously true. Almost every time I hear it, though, the person is referring to physical safety.